Target fixation occurs when you go where you look. It is a phenomenon that especially occurs when riding a two-wheeled vehicle but also happens when driving a vehicle. Sounds simple, and it is, but the implications can be enormous. It plays an important role when faced with an immediate threat or danger. Imagine you are riding your motorcycle along a road approaching an intersection. A car comes to a stop at the stop sign and you have no stop sign and continue through the intersection. All of a sudden the stopped car accelerates and enters the intersection directly into your path. Quick – what do you do?
If you are honest with yourself and break-down the sequence in which you reacted the first thing you must have done was look at the car. If it were otherwise you would not have seen the car start to enter the intersection. Keep in mind that this is a sudden and unexpected event. Next thing you do is probably slam on your brakes while looking at the car. The target fixation phenomenon kicks in and the motorcycle tends to move toward the car. Even the driver of the vehicle may look up and see you too late and the target fixation phenomenon also forces the driver of the car to turn in your direction – why – because he is looking at you – target fixation.
There are a lot of videos on YouTube that demonstrate the phenomenon but I think this is one of the best. A wobble on the rear end, maybe a little water on the road, and he appears to panic. I think target fixation occurs as he is looking at the fast-approaching brick wall. There is essentially nothing he can do at this point. Sure, he might have been disciplined enough to accelerate and bear left but it was probably too little too late. Now imagine if that brick wall were a car suddenly entering your “right of way” intersection.